The Photographic Object

The Photographer’s Gallery London

The Photographic Object examines photography as an object in its own right and on its own terms.

The advent of digital photography and the current saturation of imagery, through print, mobile phones and the internet, has resulted in a renewed interest in the physical and tactile quality of the photograph. This exhibition brings together a diversity of approaches to the photograph as ‘object’, such as overlaying, stitching, cutting, piercing, punching or moulding the works.

The exhibition explores the material potential of the photographic form that lies somewhere between two and three dimensions.

The Photographic Object displays the work of Maurizio Anzeri; Walead Beshty; Vanessa Billy; Annette Kelm; Gerhard Richter; Alina Szapocznikow; Wolfgang Tilmans; Andy Warhol and Catherine Yass, who all use photography in this manner.

Painter Gerhard Richter (Germany, b.1932) has always worked closely with photography. Working on Overpainted photographs since 1989, he paints onto images from holiday snaps or family albums, the thick paint adding a further narrative to the work. Andy Warhol’s (USA, 1928–1987) stitched photographs are a continuation of his silkscreen paintings, using repetition to nullify content. The decorative sewn thread creates unique, fetishistic objects.

In his Lighter series Wolfgang Tillmans (Germany, b.1968) physically intervenes with the works and folds, creases and punches large colour field photographs into sculptural shapes against the wall. Similarly performative is Catherine Yass’ (UK, b.1963) ongoing series Damage (2005 – ongoing). Yass drowns, burns and scrapes colour transparencies of urban scenes, taking the subject matter as the inspiration for its destruction.

An interest in found photographs is at the heart of Maurizio Anzeri’s (Italy, b.1969) work. Collecting old discarded portraits that once belonged in family albums Anzeri creates dark, psychological collages by intricately stitching onto the images with coloured thread to create his Second Hand Portraits.

Walead Beshty (UK, b.1976) explores the separation between the physical and image world. Beshty folds, creases and rolls colour and monochromic photograms, creating images that are both abstract and material in their form and content. Annette Kelm (Germany, b. 1975) denies photography its traditional role by reducing the image to a flat, decorative surface and creating near identical works or close-ups of textiles.

Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow’s (1926–1973) iconic Photosculptures from 1971, present chewing gum ‘sculptures’ moulded in the artist’s mouth. This experimentation with photography as a sculptural form extends her previous practice of casting from body parts. Sculptor Vanessa Billy (Switzerland, b.1978) brings together a collection of works that reflect a renewed interest in the physical and tactile qualities of the photographic image and play with the alternating functions of seeing and understanding.

The Photographic Object reflects the Gallery’s commitment to presenting photography in a contemporary context at an international level.